Friday, November 30, 2012

And we're off!

We're one step closer to Seattle. The Providence apartment is officially history, our stuff is en route to Washington, my hubs is on his way to Missouri, and I'm spending the month with a friend in Boston. Now all that's left to do in this move is work all month long, save all my money, and drive out to Seattle in January. (And then find jobs and an apartment, but first things first.)

My new quarters are a bit sparse. I'm sleeping on an air mattress, using borrowed sheets, sitting on a folding camp chair, and stacking a few books on the floor. My kitchen remnants are here; whatever I don't use in the next month will revert to my friend when I leave. I'll be working all the time--December is an exceptionally lucrative month for those in the food industry--so I won't be cooking very much that's exciting. Lots of soup, pasta, beans, oatmeal, eggs. You know, the usual.

It's been a physically grueling week, and the prospect of spending five weeks apart from my husband during the holidays is not especially appealing. But for now, I'm going to fix a big batch of oatmeal, drink some more tea, and enjoy not having to think about packing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's done!

We are officially completely packed and loaded. I am officially exhausted and sore.

Long story short, we managed to completely fill our one 6 x 7 x 8' cube. We did have to jettison some things I'd hope to fit: the microwave, the vacuum, and most alarmingly, my grandmother's antique mahogany dining room chairs. It was a grueling two days of carrying boxes down twisty stairways, setting them down outside, and then rearranging all the already-loaded boxes for maximum space efficiency. The snow and rain yesterday didn't help any.

UPack will collect our cube today, and it will magically reappear at our (currently unknown) doorstep in Seattle, roughly two months from now. Tomorrow we'll meet the landlord, turn over the keys, and start the next chapter of this saga.

It's very disconcerting living in an empty apartment. We're sleeping on an air mattress, sitting on the floor, and watching movies on our laptops. We went to a last dinner at Cook & Brown, where I used to work, and spent the evening nibbling and drinking. It was our last night together until January.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The loading begins!

 The loading begins today!

Once our UPack container arrives, we'll begin the process of the physical move--loading it with all our packed boxes and what little furniture remains. Then UPack will take it away again and transport it to Seattle. I'll take a few belongings on to my friend's apartment in Boston, my hubs will fly out to the Midwest, and we'll begin the process of waiting out the holidays. I'll work my butt off, make lots of money, and we'll start driving to Seattle after the New Year.

Oh, and I'm working all this week, so the next few days will be particularly hectic. I'll keep everyone posted!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving recap

It was a low-key holiday for us. I got to see all my siblings and their kids, and spend some quality time relaxing in the countryside. Enforced relaxation--my parents have no internet, no cell phone reception, and no cable. Not even a daily newspaper.

"Thanksgiving dinner" was really just dinner. There was no turkey, no stuffing. We had venison loin, rolls, cranberry sauce, and other things, but it wasn't a big deal. We deposited a bunch of stuff in my parents' garage for long-term storage, gave them custody of the cats for the holidays, and spent our time hanging out with all the kids.

Who were loud. I don't know why a full military is required anymore; if you rounded up all the nation's two-year-olds and set them loose on the enemy, they would spew a trail of destruction greater than any war machine. And deafen everyone in the process. Don't get me wrong, my nieces and nephew are the cutest kids ever. But my goodness, when the three of them are all fussy at once, I wanted to hide under the bed along with my cats.

Still, it was good to see everyone. I won't see my sister and her family again for a while. I drank an entire bottle of extremely delicious Grand Cru burgundy, all by myself. I slept at least 8 (and sometimes 10) hours a night. I ate a lot of homecooked food.

Now we start the packing; by this time next week, all our stuff will be in transit and my hubs will be in the Midwest with his family. This is the calm before the storm.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Why I'm not buying anything on Black Friday

I'm not buying anything on Black Friday.

Mainly because I'll be driving ten hours from Virginia to Boston. Also because we're in the process of moving, and the last thing I need right now is more stuff. But I still wouldn't buy anything, even if I could.

Because, holy crap, who needs all that stuff?

Why get up at 4 am--or just not go to bed--and face trampling crowds for more consumer goods? Why face a trampling crowd for anything? Why wait outside, in the cold, in a very long line, for the privilege of shopping at Best Buy? Do you really save that much money? Are Christmas presents that big a deal?

This year, my husband and I won't be exchanging gifts. We didn't the first year we were married, either. (No money.) Having him as my husband is plenty enough for me. We'll get something small and touching for our families, but since we're in the process of moving, no one is expecting much in the way of material goods. Our gift to everyone is a chance to see us again one last time before we decamp to the opposite coast, and vice versa.

Even during normal years, Christmas presents in my family run about $50 apiece, tops. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive. We're happy to see each other, relax, and drink some beer.

So my example to you this holiday season: don't buy stuff. Sit back, relax, drink a beer, enjoy your family without the halo of consumerism. Think about what you would do with all the stuff you already have if you had to move it cross-country.

Also, there's the internet. You can get the same deals online, delivered right to your door, without ever having to wait in a line.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It's almost Thanksgiving! Brine vs. no brine, plus how to cook a turkey

I just looked up from all my packing/moving and realized it's almost Thanksgiving. I'll be celebrating with my fam in Virginia--it'll be my only holiday celebration this year, since I'll be working for Christmas and New Year's.

We'll probably eat fresh venison all week long--why buy a turkey when there's a freezer full of meat? But for those of you planning to be all traditional and stuff, here's a great article about brine vs. no brine for your turkey.

Also, here's how to cook a turkey.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Rotini with spaghetti squash

Or, as I like to think of it, plain old pasta with a little extra veg.

Because spaghetti squash has such a spaghetti-like texture, it goes beautifully either with or instead of pasta. For a gluten-free vegetarian experience, shred it and top it with spaghetti sauce. For extra veg, mix it with your usual pasta and add sauce.

You could even get fancy and add a little greenery, some fresh arugula or spinach, maybe.

I just roasted a spaghetti squash, shredded it, mixed it with a box of cooked rotini, and topped with my usual sauce.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Soup greens"

I went to the grocery store yesterday to pick up a couple of things and discovered a new grocery store creation: "soup greens."

This is a store-made package of various (old) produce that could go into a pot of soup, all of which I'm assuming are too old/blemished to sell individually. Because I went in for a couple of things to throw into a pot of soup, I grabbed one.

For $2.99, I got two carrots, half a stalk of celery, one-quarter of a leek, a turnip, an onion, most of a big parsnip, and some parsley and dill.

Not the greatest quality, but perfectly acceptable for a pot of soup. I added a can of red beans, a handful of wheatberries, half a bag of frozen spinach, and broth.

Then I made a big batch of garlic bread with a free loaf of ciabatta from work.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

We've finished packing!

We've packed everything that can be packed. Our moving cube doesn't arrive for twelve more days, but we'll spend most of next week at my parents' house in Virginia for Thanksgiving.

I got a new laptop yesterday--my old one, purchased in 2006, still technically worked, but couldn't pick up a wireless signal. So, not really a laptop anymore. I'm spending the next couple of days getting that set up, transferring files, blah blah blah.

And we're eating the last of everything. Meals include grilled sausage plus the last of the grits plus frozen green beans; pasta; salad; and one last batch of soup. I'm not sure what we're going to eat when we return from Virginia, for those last four or five days. Perhaps we'll commandeer some Thanksgiving leftovers.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bacon, potato and red pepper hash

Ah, hash. I've made white bean breakfast hash, sausage and potato hash, blue potato and corn hash, even sweet potato hash. Really just an excuse to eat crispy-fried potatoes, with other things.

This hash is one of those everything-left-in-the-fridge dishes. I simultaneously used up the rest of the potatoes, the bacon, two giant red peppers, and half a bag of frozen lima beans. And because I'll put a fried egg on top, the rest of the eggs, too.

Feel free to use this as a template, to empty your own refrigerator.

Dice some potatoes, and boil in water until almost but not quite cooked through. Drain. Fry some bacon. Remove the actual bacon and saute one diced onion and two diced red peppers in the bacon grease. When soft, add the potatoes back in, and any frozen veggies. Keep the heat on high and keep an eye on it. Stir it enough to keep it from burning, but not so much that you keep it in constant motion--you want a nice brown sear on everything. (I also threw in four diced mushrooms, just 'cause.)

When sufficiently browned, season with salt and pepper, crumble the cooked bacon on top, and serve with an egg on top. Good any time of day.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What we've made from selling our crap

So far, $2600.

Not bad, huh? I'd much rather have the $2600 than have to move all that stuff right now.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The late-night wrap

I engage in quite a bit of late-night dining. Waiting tables is like that. I eat staff meal at 3 pm, and then nothing. I run my ass off for the next eight or ten hours, and then I need to eat something as I'm driving an hour home. Preferably something with protein.

These days, it's a wrap, a piece of cheese, and an apple. The wrap (Stop n' Shop-brand flour tortillas, $1.50 for 8) is filled with salad greens, maybe some nuts and/or dried fruit, and either a cooked egg or some cheese, for the protein. I roll that up, wrap it in plastic wrap, and leave it in the car--it's cold enough to do that now. I keep a water bottle in the car, too. When snack time comes, I can cover all the major food groups--I have fresh fruit, greens, dairy, and protein (eggs and cheese).

Most importantly, none of these things will make a mess in the car.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Roasted eggplant and white bean soup with gruyere sausage

Not much left in the ol' cabinets. But I do have some nice sausages, bought on sale. I'm making a roasted eggplant and white bean soup, with some gruyere and roasted garlic chicken sausage added in.

I used this recipe as a starting point, without the fresh herbs or the onion, and all broth instead of broth and water. I'm out of onions, so I'll use half a head of garlic instead (at which point I'll be out of garlic, too). I'm also adding in a red pepper, and of course the package of sausage. I also won't blend it, since my blending equipment is all packed.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Packing the little stuff

Packing is one thing. Packing stuff you use on a daily basis is another.

How do you deal with packing the stuff you actually use? Computers, TVs, the bathmat, the skillet, the pet bowls, that last coffee mug?

In this as in all things, it helps to have a plan.

Our moving situation is a little unique in that our stuff is disappearing long before we personally show up in our new city. I'll spend next month with a friend in Boston. That makes things a little easier in the kitchen, since all the stuff I can't use up and can't pack (baking supplies, oils and vinegars, spices) can go with me to her place, and then just stay with her when I leave. Ditto cleaning supplies and bathroom stuff.

It's all the other little things. The cup we keep pens in. The canister full of whisks and spatulas. The cat food bowls. The toilet brush. The butter dish. All those things have to be washed, dried, and packed away ahead of time.

This dovetails nicely with our plan to get rid of all the crappy Tupperware. We'll keep the good stuff, but we've ended up with a hodgepodge of scratched, melted, cracked, and/or stained Tupperware as well. Two old Tupperware tubs can stand in for the cat food and water bowls. Ditto the butter dish. In a pinch, you could even use a Tupperware tub as a glass to drink out of, I suppose. We can eat out of the Tupperware as well, so that we can pack the rest of the china.

I'm going through the house and collecting all those bits. I took the pens out of the mugs, saved out a few for immediate use, and packed the rest along with the mug. We're in the process of going through our clothes and shoes, setting aside what we'll keep with us, and packing the rest. The stainless steel things I keep makeup in were packed; now all my makeup resides in a plastic shoe box. The little bowl I keep salt in was washed and dried, and the salt placed in a Ziploc bag. Same with the last spices; I put a little of each in a Ziploc bag, to go with me to Boston, and the rest will get packed.

Ziploc and Tupperware go a long way here.

We're also in the process of backing up all our files, so that we can at least pack the desktop and printer (the laptops stay with us). I'll back up everything on an external hard drive, which I'll keep with me. I'll also update our "Doomsday List" which stays in offsite storage with my parents--a list of all our financial information, bank account numbers, user names and passwords, plus copies of our driver's licenses, passports, Social Security cards, and marriage certificate. In case something happens to one or both of us, someone can deal with our credit cards, student loans, etc.

Be sure to set aside a "last box," which will hold all the things you'll need first in your new home. Shower curtain (and rings), sheets, pillows, travel mugs, a couple of glasses, maybe some disposable silverware, a flashlight (just in case), a roll of toilet paper, a roll of paper towels, a couple of lightbulbs, a towel or two, and all your bathroom stuff (toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, soap, etc.).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Red beans and grits

Like red beans and rice, only with grits instead of rice. Why? Because I don't have enough rice left for a sufficient batch. So I'm using grits instead (regular grits, not cheese grits).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Baked shells with spinach and cheese

Essentially baked ziti, with mini shells and a bag of frozen spinach. All the flavors of lasagna, with none of the effort.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Packing, part 2: Space Bags

You've seen these things on TV. You put your clothes in and vacuum out all the extra air, compressing a big pile of stuff down to a flat pile of stuff. I was intrigued by the possibility of getting all our summer/extra clothes into one box, instead of three or four, so I picked up a box of these things at Target.

Review: mostly positive. They worked great, and did indeed shrink three boxes of clothes down to one big box of clothes. However, I'm not sure how much room I saved overall. If I'd packed that big box really well, by stacking and rolling, I probably could've gotten most of those clothes in there without paying $18 for  five spacebags. It's also worth pointing out that while the air is sucked out, the weight of the clothes is not. It's still a heavy box.

That being said, I think I'm going to get some more, smaller Space Bags, for suitcase purposes. My hubs will be spending the holidays with his family in the Midwest, and he'll need to take a lot of sweaters with him. The spacebags will help get more into a standard-size suitcase.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Curried lentil salad

Thank God, I've finally used up all the lentils. I was starting to get really tired of lentils. No more lentil recipes for a while, I promise!

This curried lentil salad is really easy. It's basically cooked lentils mixed with a dressing of olive oil, rice vinegar, and curry powder. Salt and pepper to taste. You can add a little minced red onion and fresh garlic if you want. 1/4 cup olive oil to 2-3 tablespoons rice vinegar, and maybe a tablespoon of curry powder (or to taste).

Serve room temperature or cold.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Roasted cauliflower with paprika

I got a head of cauliflower on sale the other day, and this is a very quick and delicious thing to do with it.

Cut it into large florets. Put a little olive oil in a roasting dish, and toss the cauliflower to coat. Salt and pepper to taste. Roast at 400 degrees until cooked through. Remove, and toss with paprika (I used pimenton, a smoky Spanish paprika).

That's it!